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Episode 2: Unravelling the need for stability for effective reaching

Updated: Aug 23, 2023

Unravelling the Neurophysiological Systems Behind Efficient Reach, Grasp, release and Manipulation – Where do we begin and how does the system all work together?

BBTA Tutors: Clare Fraser and Debbie Strang

The neurophysiological systems model of movement and posture, based on the work of researchers like Kaoru Takakusaki, provides valuable insights into the neural control of reach patterns. Our recent Advanced Course at Walkergate Park, Newcastle, explored the neurophysiology underpinning human movement control and how this applies to our patients’ rehabilitation and recovery.

Takakusaki’s model elucidates the intricate neural circuits and systems involved in generating and executing reach movements.


The cortical and subcortical regions of the brain, such as the primary motor cortex, premotor cortex, and basal ganglia, play crucial roles in the initiation and execution of reach patterns. These regions form a complex network that integrates sensory information, plans the movement trajectory, and coordinates the activation of relevant muscles.

The model highlights the involvement of various neural pathways in controlling reach movements. The corticospinal tract, for example, carries signals from the primary motor cortex to the spinal cord, enabling the precise execution of reaching actions. Other pathways, such as the rubrospinal and reticulospinal tracts, contribute to the coordination and modulation of muscle activity during reach patterns.

In addition to the cortical and subcortical regions, the model emphasizes the role of the cerebellum in reach control. The cerebellum receives input from multiple sensory systems and plays a crucial role in refining motor commands, error correction, and coordination of movement sequences. Dysfunction in the cerebellum can lead to impairments in reach accuracy and coordination.

Sensory feedback is another critical aspect of reach control addressed by the systems model. Sensory information from the skin, muscles, and joints provides continuous feedback to the central nervous system, allowing for adjustments and corrections during reach movements. This sensory feedback is integrated with motor commands to ensure accurate and successful reaches.

Furthermore, the model recognizes the importance of postural control during reaching actions. Maintaining a stable posture is crucial for effective reaching. The model highlights the involvement of postural control centres, such as the vestibular system and brainstem nuclei, in coordinating postural adjustments and ensuring stability throughout the reach movement.

Overall, the neurophysiological systems model of movement and posture provides a comprehensive understanding of the neural control of reach patterns. It emphasizes the integration of cortical and subcortical regions, the role of various neural pathways, the involvement of the cerebellum, the significance of sensory feedback, and the coordination of postural control.

By considering these neurophysiological mechanisms at our Advanced Course in Newcastle recently, the course participants developed targeted interventions to optimize reach movements, improve motor function, and enhance overall movement performance for the patients that they treated on the course. They took away exciting ideas to manage the movement disorders and functional problems of their neurological patients back at their work places.

If you want to develop your understanding of how Neurophysiology influences your patient treatment interventions then look at the BBTA website for courses to update your knowledge and skills. www.bbta.org.uk

Ref: Kaoru Takakusaki 2017, Functional Neuroanatomy for Posture and Gait Control, J Mov Disord. 10(1): 1–17. Published online 2017 Jan 18. doi: 10.14802/jmd.16062

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